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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2021  (Read 1780 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - April 2021
« on: April 01, 2021, 07:39:57 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/march-web-only/dying-speak-anthony-carter-lee-fowler-sin-thirsty-cross.html








Sin Makes Us Thirsty. Find Refreshment at the Cross.




Jesus went without water so we could drink eternally from the fountain of God’s grace.


To be human is to thirst.

The average adult man’s body is 60 percent water. From the time of our birth, even up to the moment of our death, more than anything, our bodies crave the most precious natural resource on earth—namely, water. It has been said that the average person can live 30 days without food but only three days without water. When there is a lack of water, the body naturally goes into self-preservation mode and thirst kicks in. Suddenly, there is nothing more important than quenching our thirst. It is among the most basic instincts. To be human is to need water. To thirst is human.

As the pangs of death closed in upon our Lord on the cross, Jesus once again demonstrated the sincerity of his humanity. He identified with the longings of humanity. He understood our deepest needs and sympathized with our inherent pangs. The suffering of the cross touched him in ways that caused him to long for fulfillment, long for refreshing.

Death was slowly arresting his vitality. His energy was waning, and his body grew weaker and weaker. Just as the Scriptures had foretold (Ps. 22:15; 69:3), the depth of our Lord’s suffering was manifested in every part of his being, including his thirst. The depth of our sin is the extent to which it has affected every aspect of our being; so too must the suffering of Christ be on our behalf.

Suffering is exhausting. Anyone who has endured pain for any length of time knows the toll suffering takes upon the body. It breaks the will. It cripples the mind and causes it to self-exhaust in finding relief. The Crucifixion was particularly painful, exhausting, and even dehydrating. Yet the thirst of Christ was not simply a reminder of the limitations of our bodies but even more so a reminder of the depths and weight of our sin. Jesus was thirsty because his body grew weak. His body grew weak because of our sin. He grew weak because our sorrows weighed him down (Isa. 53:4). Because of our sin, Jesus was thirsty. Because of our sin, Jesus longed to be refreshed.

Thirsting for righteousness
As the body longs for water, so the soul longs for righteousness. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, the longing of the human heart has been for the restoration of relationship with God and the restoration of this world. We look out upon the world and see brokenness all around us—starvation, exploitation, persecution, abuse, brutality, sadness, and murder—and we long for a respite from the madness.

But let our gaze turn inward as well. We look into our own hearts and see the pride and arrogance, jealousy and hatred, the lust, greed, selfishness, and loneliness. Inwardly and outwardly, we thirst for righteousness, justice, love, and peace. Our sin and the sin of this world weaken us, sap our spiritual strength, and cause us to thirst. Sin makes us thirsty.

But why did Jesus, who knew no sin, thirst? Why did our Lord, who had everything and wanted for nothing—why did he thirst? His thirst was for righteousness—not his own but ours. And as the Bible says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matt. 5:6). The hunger and thirst of Christ on the cross was not simply for him but for you and me. As a result, Jesus cried, “I am thirsty.”

But who was this man who upon the cross declared himself thirsty and longed to be refreshed? Consider that it was he who, according to the Bible, set aside “storehouses” for snow and hail (Job 38:22). It was he who walked on the water (Mark 6:48) and commanded the stormy seas to be still (4:39). It was he who makes it rain in one city and holds back the rain in another, who causes one field to flood with water and another field to dry up (Amos 4:7). Surely he could have called a legion of angels to supply enough water to fill the oceans of earth many times over. He who was thirsty had the power to quench his thirst in a moment, and yet he chose not to.

No one willingly chooses to be thirsty. Thirst is something that comes upon us. It is a natural instinct brought on by a longing to be refreshed and refueled. Thirst is something we try to avoid, and once it comes upon us, we seek to satisfy it as soon as possible. No one chooses to have a dry tongue or parched lips. Yet Jesus did. He chose to be thirsty so we would and could be refreshed.

In choosing to become man and choosing to suffer in our place, he also chose to thirst. Sin makes us thirsty. Sin exposes our deficiencies and reminds us how easily we are discouraged in our battle against it. But how did he who knew no sin become thirsty? It was not on account of his sin that he experienced such thirst; it was on account of our sin. Again, the Scriptures were being fulfilled:

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isa. 53:5–6)

Our Lord was thirsty because sin makes us thirsty. In taking on our sin, he took on our thirst—our thirst for righteousness, holiness, and peace. And on the cross his thirst was not quenched so that ours could be. He was not refreshed so that we would be, through him. Now he commands us to be refreshed in his grace and mercy. Now when we thirst, we can hear the Savior say, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isa. 55:1).

An eternal spring
Not only does the cross of Christ satisfy our thirst, but that refreshment comes for free! There is no cost, except the cost already paid by Christ. He now says, “Come. Be refreshed.” The fountain of God’s gracious refreshing flows from the cross into all eternity so that those who enter heaven through the blood of Jesus will thirst no more (Rev. 7:16).

Being thirsty is a condition of this world. And the world desires you to drink from its contaminated well. But Jesus reminds us that such wells never truly satisfy, never truly refresh. Only the water that flows from his side, his eternal love and mercy, can truly refresh. As he said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14).

Jesus was thirsty so that all who trust him can find living water and be thirsty no longer. Let us drink from the waters of everlasting life, joy, and contentment. Let us be refreshed in Jesus unto eternal life.










Anthony J. Carter is lead pastor of East Point Church in East Point, Georgia. Lee Fowler is an elder and Sunday School teacher at East Point Church. This article is adapted from their book, Dying to Speak: Meditations from the Cross (P & R Publishing). www.prpbooks.com

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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2021
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2021, 08:03:45 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2021/april/easter-hope-for-post-pandemic-world.html








Easter Hope for a Post-Pandemic World




A special guest post from N.T. Wright to offer encouragement this Easter.


I knew from an early age there was something wrong. I listened to Easter sermons from good evangelical preachers, and they seemed to be missing the point. I suspect the same problem is getting in the way now, as we try to draw from the Easter message the hope that the post-pandemic world will need so badly.

The sermons I heard tended to stress two points. First, belief in Jesus’ resurrection could be supported by personal testimony: “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!” Second, Jesus’ resurrection proved (we were told) that there really is “life after death.”

Nothing wrong with these at one level. Personal experience of the presence and power of the living Jesus is a vital part of genuine Christian living. And, of course, God the creator hasn’t made us in his image just to tease us with this present tantalizing life. We are made for more.

But “he lives within my heart” is the truth of Pentecost, not of Easter Day.

Easter is about something that happened, launching a new world, prior to any transforming effects on believers. You can’t explain the rise of Christianity historically unless you say that Jesus’ tomb really was empty and that his followers really did meet him alive again. The stories are strange; they are not what people might have made up from what they believed ahead of time. Thus, for instance, the risen Jesus, though identified by the mark of the nails and the spear, seemed somehow different. He was not instantly recognized. Paul grasps the point: what has happened at Easter is the launch of new creation. Jesus’ resurrection body was the first example of a new order of being: a heaven-and-earth reality. That’s what the old prophets had promised; that’s what the New Testament reaffirms.

The point of new creation, after all, isn’t about ‘life after death’ in the normal sense. We are promised that when God creates the final new heavens and new earth all his people will be raised from the dead to share in it (after an interim period, about which the first Christians weren’t particularly interested). But the new creation launched at Easter was about the present this-worldly reality.

So here’s the difference.

If you promise the post-pandemic world a ‘spiritual’ experience of Jesus here and now, or a heavenly life after death, most people will shrug their shoulders. That’s not going to help rebuild the economy. It won’t provide jobs for the millions now out of work. It will be cold comfort for those who have lost loved ones. We would be at the same place as Martha when Jesus challenged her about the resurrection (John 11:23-25): Yes, she says, I know my brother will rise at the last day. Jesus’ response is what we need to hear right now: “I am the resurrection and the life!” Resurrection isn’t just a long-distance, far-off hope. (Nor is it about “going to heaven”!) It is a person. And it – he – has come forward from God’s ultimate future to burst into the present with new life and new hope. That was, and is, the message the world needs.

Ever since the eighteenth century, the Western world has done its best to squash the rumour of Jesus’ resurrection. That’s hardly surprising. The gospel stories are about the climax of world history and the birth of God’s new creation. But the so-called Enlightenment believed that history reached its climax, not with Jesus, but with the European and American culture of the time, and that its own science, philosophy and democracy had produced the real new world. There cannot, after all, be two climaxes to history.

The church, tragically, has gone along for the ride. We decided to leave the practical work of new creation to the “secular” authorities and content ourselves with – guess what – cultivating personal experience and other-worldly hope. As Nietzsche saw, the church has offered a form of Platonism with someone called “Jesus” loosely attached. That’s a comfortable place to be. No secular empires are challenged in the making of that movie.

But the church is supposed to be offering comfort to others, not seeking it for itself. The post-pandemic world needs the real Easter message: the message of a new creation which began when Jesus was raised from the dead. A new heaven-and-earth reality, energized by God’s powerful new breath surging through Jesus’ followers, turning them (to their own surprise, and in some cases alarm) into a multi-cultural, outward-facing community, determined to be the good news the world so obviously needed. Paul’s great vision in Ephesians was of God summing up everything in heaven and earth in the Messiah (1:10), a reality anticipated in the coming together of Jew and Gentile into a single family (2:11-22), sending a signal to the powers of the world that God is God and Jesus is Lord (3:1-13). When Paul said that we are “created in the Messiah for good works”, he didn’t mean “so that we could behave ourselves properly”, though that’s obviously implied too. “Good works” in Paul’s world meant people making a positive difference in their wider communities. The church has no business outsourcing its heaven-on-earth mission of hope to secular agencies. We should be upstaging them.

Fortunately, this is already happening all over the place. The Holy Spirit is often way ahead of the church’s teaching and preaching. In my country, Christian groups have led the way in initiatives like food banks. The use of Cathedrals as vaccination centres (not, of course, as an alternative to worship, but as its natural outflow) has sent a powerful signal: the church is there for the healing of the community. Again and again the church in practice has been what St Paul said it should be: people of prayer and hope at the places where the world is in pain.

But this cheerful, outward-facing life is easily blown off course, or diverted into the wrong channels. To avoid that, the real resurrection message needs to be grasped, preached and lived. The world changed when Jesus of Nazareth came out of the tomb on Easter morning. It takes precisely the same faith to believe that truth as it takes to roll up your sleeves and go to where help is most needed – from the soup kitchen in the below-the-tracks parish, all the way to the World Economic Forum.

After all, the Easter stories in the gospels do not end up with people saying, “He lives within my heart”. Nor do people say, in those first stories, “Ah, that’s all right, so we can go to heaven after all.” They end up with people saying “Jesus is raised – therefore new creation has begun, and we have a job to do.”

There is a straight line from the heaven-on-earth reality of Jesus’ resurrection to the heaven-on-earth vocation of his followers. By his Spirit, we can be the difference the world needs. We can make the difference the world needs.








NT Wright is the former Bishop of Durham and senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall at the University of Oxford. Join him online for Unbelievable? the Conference on May 15, 2021.

patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2021
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2021, 05:56:36 am »
"Controlled hallucinations..." (cybernetic entheogens and the holy grail of BCI)


36 minutes
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4K4oNAivsg

patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2021
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2021, 09:28:37 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/april-web-only/five-ways-biblical-geography-shapes-our-view-gods-mission.html








Five Ways Biblical Geography Shapes Our View of God’s Mission






Tracing the terrain of Scripture’s stories shows us how God works in our physical world.


How can we read Scripture as embodied people who will live with an embodied Savior for all eternity? One unexpected answer to this question is the study of biblical geography. If the word geography causes you to doze off, I can relate. I failed the map reading section in social studies in second grade, which spurred my dislike of Bible maps for the next 15 years. Only when I began teaching at a Christian school that included maps in its Bible curriculum did I realize how illuminating geography can be.

I now know that it’s not only possible to learn the geography of Scripture; it’s spiritually and missionally formative. Tracing God’s work in the physical world prepares us to participate in his work of resurrection in our lives and communities. Here are five reasons why.

1. Geography reminds us that God has always been at work in the physical world.


When we read Genesis 25–33 with a map beside our Bibles, we notice that God shows up at crucial thresholds in Jacob’s life: at Bethel before he flees the promised land and at Peniel before he reenters it, as David W. Cotter has noted. Jacob names these locations “house of God” and “face of God” to commemorate his encounters with God’s gracious presence and power during these moments of vulnerability. God’s revelation isn’t abstract or purely spiritual. It is rooted in significant geographical locations.

Since Genesis, God has been weaving himself into the terrain of history, seeking us out and calling us home. The study of biblical geography shatters the false dichotomy between the physical and the spiritual by highlighting specific places where God stepped into our world. Tracing God’s mission on a map reminds us that God has always been at work to meet us in the physical world, now and in eternity (Rev. 21:1–5).

2. Geography helps us meet biblical characters as embodied humans—and take seriously our own embodiment.
Trace Ruth and Naomi’s journey from famine in Moab to the barley harvest in Bethlehem, which literally means “the house of bread.” We will be more likely to empathize with the bitterness and hunger these two women experienced when we meditate on their travels instead of passing over the brief note that they “went on until they came to Bethlehem” (Ruth 1:19). This context deepens our awareness of God’s provision for Ruth and Naomi’s bodies, and not just their souls.

Taking seriously the embodiment of Bible characters allows us to take seriously our own embodiment as well. Geography is one way to remind ourselves that our bodies and their circumstances matter to the Redeemer who will have a body for all eternity.

3. Reading geographically helps us engage with the text’s setting in active ways.
Geography invites us to immerse ourselves in the world of the Bible, asking questions as we read. What is Bethlehem’s location relative to major trade routes and borders, its elevation, natural resources, and way of life? What other biblical events unfolded there? How does its geographical context contribute to our understanding of a specific Bible passage? These questions become guardrails that ground our Bible study in the physical world, deterring us from over-spiritualizing or allegorizing the text.

We can engage geography in embodied ways by sketching maps in the margins of our Bibles, using a Bible atlas or dictionary, tracking the mileage of Bible characters’ journeys, referring to a photo or video collection, and visiting the Bible’s setting ourselves. When we teach, we can include geography-based projects and visuals in our messages, remembering that the visual organization of information significantly increases the engagement and retention of our listeners. These active strategies honor the way God has created us and will one day resurrect us.

4. Learning geography shows us the scope of God’s mission.
Have you ever considered why Mark includes two stories about Jesus feeding large crowds (Mark 6:30–44; Mark 8:1–10)? When I sailed across the Sea of Galilee, a Jerusalem University College instructor pointed out that at the time of Jesus the western side was the Jewish side, and the eastern side was the gentile side. A lightbulb went off as I realized that Jesus fed crowds on both the Jewish and gentile sides to demonstrate that he is the Bread of Life for all people.

Tracking the first-century political borders around the Sea of Galilee illuminates the multiethnic people of God. This Jewish Messiah crossed the lake into the gentile district, bringing God’s kingdom to more people. References to “the other side of the Sea of Galilee” or “the far shore” do more than develop the plot—they showcase Jesus’ heart for the nations.

Geographical awareness also equips us to think missionally. Jesus told a former demoniac to stay on the gentile side of the lake and share the good news of the kingdom in his own community (Mark 5:19–20). Jesus commissioned Paul to leave his community and invite Gentiles into the kingdom, leading him westward to establish Christian communities in strategic port cities (Acts 9:15). Tracing on a map God’s call to specific individuals reminds us that there is biblical precedent for both staying and going. It also inspires us to intentionally engage the landscapes where we’re placed.

5. Geography shapes our view of the crucified and resurrected God.
Reading the Old Testament with a map in hand highlights God’s longstanding commitment to meet his people in the physical world. Jesus’ ministry continues this trajectory, bringing us face to face with the God who so loved the world that he died to restore it (John 3:16). “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” rings more authentically when we study the places where he lived, died, and rose from the dead (John 1:14).

Standing near Nazareth, Jesus’ childhood home, I learned that he had grown up in a small, conservative Jewish village. Considering the setting of his childhood, whether through a tour or book such as In the Steps of Jesus by Peter Walker, introduces us to Jesus the first-century Jewish rabbi. Geography is the vehicle that transports us to his cultural world so that we can understand his life and ministry more authentically.

Jesus’ crucifixion outside Jerusalem concurrent with the tearing of the temple veil emphasizes his intent to welcome his people to dwell with him for eternity (Matt. 27:51). As Barry Beitzel’s research notes, his resurrection appearances expand outward from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, highlighting Jesus’ global mission (Acts 1:8).

During one of these appearances on the road to Emmaus, Jesus guides two of his disciples through a discussion on the suffering Messiah (Luke 1:26–27). Unbeknownst to them, the crucified and risen Savior journeys with them, illuminating his own identity through Scripture.

On the road they make sense of his mission and around the table they recognize the Messiah. As we join them on the roads and landscapes of Scripture, we, too, make greater sense of God’s mission.

Reading the Bible geographically is a spiritual discipline that influences our theology of God, the coming kingdom, and our role in it. Christ has died and is risen. We will die and rise. We will dwell with God in physical bodies in physical places. As the stories and sermons of Scripture root themselves in global landscapes, we will understand God’s mission in the physical world in new and tangible ways.








Kelsa Graybill has an MA in Bible Exposition from Talbot School of Theology and writes about the intersection of Scripture and spiritual formation at kelsagraybill.com.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2021
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2021, 09:58:31 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/podcasts/quick-to-listen/transgender-surgery-sports-bill-legislation-podcast.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29








Why the Transgender Conversation Is Changing





New bans for surgeries and student sports aren't the most dramatic changes in gender identity.


Last Friday, a bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing in middle, high school, and college sports passed in the West Virginia legislature. At least 20 different state legislatures have introduced transgender athlete bans in 2021. While South Dakota’s governor Kristi Noem vetoed a proposed ban, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi have signed these changes into law.

Arkansas’ governor, Asa Hutchinson, did, however, veto legislation that would have banned gender confirming treatments or sex reassignment surgery for transgender youth under 18. That bill would have been the first in the country to ban this practice. Meanwhile, last Monday, GOP legislators in North Carolina introduced a bill that that would prevent doctors from performing sex reassignment surgery for transgender people under the age of 21.

This flurry of state bills—a month ago LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign had counted more than 80—has once again provoked impassioned fighting, much of it centered around children. It’s led to questions of fairness in youth sports, if adolescent judgement and diagnosis should be trusted, and what role and what say parents should have in how their children express their gender.

Mark Yarhouse is a pyschology professor at Wheaton College and the director of the Sexual and Gender Identity Institute. His books include Understanding Gender Dysphoria and most recently, Emerging Gender Identities. He joined global media manager Morgan Lee and editorial director Ted Olsen on this week’s episode of Quick to Listen.

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The transcript is edited by Yvonne Su and Bunmi Ishola

Highlights from Quick to Listen #260
What is the same and what has changed in the conversation around gender over the past five or six years?

Mark Yarhouse: The conversation around gender has become more pronounced and centered into cultural discussions.

You see an increase in the number of people who identify as transgender or what I refer to as emerging gender identities. There's a splintering of gender categories into different experiences, different language for describing people's experiences.

Things have become more polarized as well. You saw that with the reaction to legislation like the bathroom bill, and you see that now with the law passed in Alabama. 20 or more states have gender identity–change laws in place for minors to keep that from happening. There’s an increase on both sides of a divisive topic.

What led to this development?

Mark Yarhouse: When I wrote my first book on understanding gender dysphoria, I was trying to introduce evangelical Christians to the concept of transgender experiences. Gender dysphoria is this experience that's distressing when a person's gender identity doesn't align with their biological sex.

When I talk about emerging gender identities, it's beyond that basic framework of transgender. Young people say that they’re gender-expansive, they’re gender-creative, they’re bi-gender, they’re pan-gender and the different identifiers go from there.

It helps us as Christians to be thoughtful in how we engage in a culture that's shifted so dramatically and where language has been shifting. You're interacting now with younger people for whom these are taken-for-granted realities and the generation that went before them had a limited scope of categories and language. There’s a real high likelihood of our misunderstanding and talking past one another.

Do the lessons about transgender issues from before map onto the emerging gender identities?

Mark Yarhouse: Some of the lessons learned will map onto that. It's challenging to know exactly how to, as Christians, enter into this conversation because we have had norms around sexuality and gender that we want to be able to articulate.

But sometimes when we articulate those norms, we can do it in ways that seem to cast doubt on the experience of other people around us, who don't use those same norms as anchor points that we do. It ends up becoming more of a risk of speaking past each other or being entrenched in not understanding.

You can both teach norms around sexuality and gender and recognize that there are exceptions to those that are likely the result of a fallen world and the challenges that people face in that space. There are also clinical differences and issues from a classic transgender presentation and some of the emerging gender identities.

To seek common ground, is it helpful to talk about how we also have dysphoria or don’t conform to cultural or biblical notions of what it means to be male or female?

Mark Yarhouse: There are an upside and a downside to that approach. Christians would hold that we have so much in common as we bear the image of God and we should start there. People are beloved by God. God wants a relationship with people. There’s so much in that sense as a starting point for shared human experience.

But if you overplay that, you look past how some people's experience is so far on the margins that you might not fully appreciate the challenges that they're facing, particularly when it is dysphoria, a painful experience that you've never experienced.

There are also people saying that this is willful disobedience on your part. We're not speaking the same terms here about people's experiences.

How do you define gender dysphoria? Is the term interchangeable with the idea of transgenderism?

Mark Yarhouse: Gender dysphoria is the discomfort or distress that's associated with the lack of concordance between someone's biological sex, usually thought of in terms of chromosomes, genitalia and gonads, and the person's gender identity, their experience as a man or a woman or a different gender identity than that.

When that's distressing to them, it's dysphoria versus euphoria, a positive emotional state. It's a negative emotional state. I don't think of that as synonymous with transgender but many people who would identify as transgender would report gender dysphoria. It can vary in severity from mild to severe, and it can ebb and flow in severity in a person's life.

Historically, gender dysphoria was thought of as having an early onset. A boy or a girl is aware of their gender between ages two and four, developmentally. They're aware that they're a boy or a girl, or they're going to express a different experience than that.

What we've seen in the last six years has been a remarkable increase in the number of cases that we would call late-onset. That means at or after puberty, the person is reporting dysphoria that they didn't appear to have much evidence of, if at all, in childhood.

That's what's concerning to some mental health professionals and others. There’s not been a satisfying explanation that accounts for that increase.

Is it true that, before the last five or six years, people that were saying “I’m trans” most likely started feeling those feelings well before puberty?

Mark Yarhouse: Most of the cases had been what we would call early onset. Parents would wonder if their child was going through a phase. They would probably go to a specialty clinic when that child turned six or seven, maybe when they were going to preschool or kindergarten, when the comparison would be their peer group, rather than at home with their family.

Historically, that would be the more typical presentation. It was more often biological males rather than females, at about a four- or five-to-one ratio that would be referred to these specialty clinics. That was probably the result of having a narrower box for what a boy can be like.

If they're outside of that expectation, then it raises more flags for parents. Whereas girls can have a little more latitude in how they present; and if they're gender atypical in some ways, you have positive language for that. They could be tomboyish and no one's going to be particularly concerned.

That probably accounted for that ratio, but now you're seeing quite a flip. Now we're seeing not just the late-onset cases at a higher rate, but also seeing it among biological females at a higher rate than you do males. We don't understand what's going on with that switch.

How do you distinguish between someone who expresses themselves outside the cultural understanding of masculinity or femininity, versus someone who feels uncomfortable being a particular gender?

Mark Yarhouse: When you meet with somebody to make a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, you rule out that they're within the range of what a boy or girl, or a man or a woman, would be like. They maybe have different characteristics, different presentations, different ways different interests, and so forth that are gender atypical. They don't fit into maybe stereotypes, but they're not gender dysphoric.

So how do you make that distinction? Several things go into that. You can have a conversation with an adult and they’re telling you. It's harder when you're trying to make that determination with a child who might not be able to pull all that together. But there are certain criteria that you follow around what they're able to say about their gender identity.

It's usually their response to primary and secondary sex characteristics. It's the desire for the sex characteristics of the other gender. These things aren't for a few weeks or a few months; it's over time and it's significant. It's significant in their body image and how they experience and see themselves. It's distressing to them.

What advice would you give to adults who have recently learned that a young person in their life is trans?

Mark Yarhouse: Christians typically have this skill set. We are used to applying it to other groups of people whose individual characteristics are different than our own. For example, we don't seem to have difficulty relating to our agnostic neighbors, even though their characteristics around their religious identity are different than ours.

We have a sense of how to relate to that person who's different in terms of racial or cultural background. When people's characteristics vary from ours, we can relate to them, talk with them, recognize God's love for them, value them as a person, to encourage them to bring all of their experiences into the relationship that we're forming with them as an acquaintance and maybe a friend.

You use the same skill set here. It's doesn't have to be more difficult than that.

I don't normally speak into the lives of adolescents around me unless I have a relationship with them and I'm invited into that space. It would run a significant risk of me overstepping the nature of the relationship I have with them, and then likely speaking past them. Then what they may know about me is that I'm a Christian who’s now a witness to them. I have this top-down approach where I'm telling them that they're at-risk or they're doing something wrong.

I would probably take the position more with an adolescent than I do as a neighbor, as a family friend, or something like that. To listen more about what their experience has been like, remember that they're navigating at their age.

Their generation has a lot more categories for language around categories and linguistic constructs around gender and sexuality than my generation did. They're probably deeply shaped by what's been made available to them and they're interacting with those categories and they're making sense to them, or they might not make sense to me.

I might have a reaction to that, but it would be better to understand how the language functions for an adolescent rather than begin with the place that they're wrong or that they need to be corrected. That kind of mutational strategy does not work with adolescents period. It doesn’t work in this conversation because our connection to their language has been so different and they've been exposed to so many different categories.

How do you counsel people on the basic questions of name and identity?

Mark Yarhouse: If a person is able to live in a way that reflects their birth sex, it’s going to be less complicated.

There are so many layers of complexity. Some people are in this place where they're considering a social transition or a partial transition, and they're trying on different names and pronouns.

If the person's trying to do that because they've been suffering from gender dysphoria and it's been distressing to them, and they've used other strategies to manage that (like the clothing they wear, the way they keep their hair, and these things have taken the edge off that dysphoria and been helpful to them), but it's sufficiently distressing that they think that using pronouns that they would prefer might be helpful to them, then I'd like to understand what's behind the request and how it's functioning for them.

That's not an uncommon strategy that people use. They try to use these strategies usually in a trial-and-error way and in a stepwise fashion. They can always reverse and go back to their original pronouns.

They can always do that; they're trying to figure this out. I don't want to be overly reactive to that. I want to meet them where they are. I want to have a sustained relationship with them. I err on the side of hospitality towards somebody to be in a relationship with them rather than do things on the front end that would sever the tie that they might otherwise want to have with me.

What advice do you have for parents as they try to understand where their child is coming from?

Mark Yarhouse: When you have early onset, parents are not that surprised when a child says to them, “I'm transgender,” or “I experience my gender identity differently than most people do,” or however they frame it. Parents knew something was going on. They just didn't have language for it. But when you have late-onset cases, it is blindsiding. Parents feel like their world has been rocked and there's no reference point for what their teenager is saying. There's little or no history to understand it.

There has been some concern that there might be teens who have other issues going on in their life and they're finding a sense of identity and community in something that has such social salience today. It's moved to the center of some of the cultural discourse around sexuality and gender, where some time ago, being gay had occupied that space.

The transgender conversation has moved into that space culturally and maybe a generation ago, a young person might've landed in a different area and explored different aspects of themselves. But today this has the kind of salience that might be appealing to some people where they might not have gender dysphoria.

There may be other things going on and they're finding something in this space. I want to be careful when I say that because I don't think that's most of what I'm seeing in my clinic. Some people have been trying to research that as a possible phenomenon.

Is that something that is trending among adolescents and we should be cautious about? I want parents to be wise and discerning to check things out with a provider, someone who has expertise in this area and to realize there could be multiple things going on here and it would take discernment and time to figure out what's going on.

Are there important ways that we should differentiate between dysphoria and transgender issues, versus same-sex attraction issues?

Mark Yarhouse: They are different experiences. When someone describes themselves as gay, they're talking about their attraction towards the same sex and their orientation towards the same sex. When someone says that they're transgender, they're talking about their experience of their gender identity as a man or a woman or a different gender identity than that.

Gender identity doesn't have to do with who you're physically, emotionally, or sexually attracted to. A lot of times when people are wrestling with dysphoria, they're often being asked about their sexual orientation. That's a confusing topic for some people.

They're not sure what they could even say about that. They're trying to figure out what's going on around gender. Sometimes Christians are more preoccupied with sexual behavior. I don't think that's where a lot of people are when they're figuring out gender. That's a different thing for them. Distinguishing that is helpful. S

Some Christians see that Scripture speaks more to the question around sexual behavior than it does to gender identity. That complicates this conversation more. It's not that Scripture doesn't say anything about gender, but it doesn't certain passages that stand out around sexual behavior. It's not quite as clear if you're looking for direct scriptural passages.

What effect do you expect banning surgery for young people to have?

Mark Yarhouse: There are several things that minors might consider, like whether to block going through puberty. That's right at the beginning of the development of puberty. Then young people might consider using cross-sex hormones at some point, maybe a year or two later. If they did the puberty-blocking intervention, then that becomes a consideration. Some of the legislation may be looking at that. There are surgical procedures as well.

On both sides of this debate, people have young people's best interests at heart. They're both trying to address vulnerable young people that they're concerned about, but they're landing diametrically in places to express their concern. Those who are saying we shouldn't allow these types of procedures are saying young people don’t have the capacity to make these kinds of decisions, to understand the consequences of these decisions, and what that could mean for them five or 10 years out.

Other people believe that young people are at great risk and that these are the kinds of things that medical and psychiatric providers think should be on the table and considered for a young person. They can make that decision.

What are some of the consequences that people proposing these bans are concerned about? To what extent are they valid or exaggerated?

Mark Yarhouse: With the use of cross-sex hormones, this would be a lifelong regimen that a young person would have to take to have the clinical effects of using the other hormones of the other sex. If you stop taking the hormone, you stop having that clinical benefit.

We don't have the kind of long-term research on the effects of an adolescent using cross-sex hormones over 30 years. The greatest risk would be the risk for sterility.

Another topic that people are concerned about is that a young person at 16 or 17 doesn’t understand what that would mean in 10 years. Do they understand the risks that they're taking there?

I'm not a fan of legislating around these complex clinical issues on either side. Once you move towards legislation on either side of these complex issues, ultimately, it ends up not being nimble enough to respond to the needs of the next person in front of you. I'd love for those needs to be met more by the mental health profession and the people who are working with them.

Those that regulate the mental health professions, that's where typically complaints would be adjudicated. It would be through the people who were licensing the providers to provide services rather than through legislation that creates a statement that's applied to everybody across the board. That doesn't end up being as flexible on members as we would.

Have you seen any examples of school districts figuring out how to have trans girls and women play in youth or collegiate sports without resorting to laws?

Mark Yarhouse: We need more time to research how to measure advantage and what that looks like. When you develop a policy like the NCAA has tried to, looking at the length of time to be on hormones, there's good intention to try to figure that out. What gives someone a competitive advantage? How do you safeguard that without excluding people from being able to compete when this is what they have trained to do?

They're good at this, and you want to allow them to do this. There have been controversies at every level of competition; this is not going to be resolved quickly. There hasn't been enough work done on clarifying what those standards would need to be across the board. Maybe they need to be applied more on a case-by-case basis than having one length of time that's applied to everybody. I wonder if it's more complicated than it's been made out to be.

How should we understand stories of people who have transitioned, then transitioned back? What kind of attention should they get?

Mark Yarhouse: Sometimes it's referred to as de-transitioning. I haven't seen a very well-designed study that would show us how common that is. In the Netherlands, they recently published a report on 30 years of people using different interventions, including surgical procedures.

The rate of regret continues to be low. I don't think that you're seeing a dramatic rise in regret that would typically correspond with de-transitioning. You could have regrets about surgery and elect not to be transitioned. We need to study that more to see how common that is, but based on the rates of regret that were published more recently, I don't see a rise in that.

I am concerned that we could see a rise in that for the reasons that I've talked about: atypical presentations, late onset, the gender ratio flip towards more cases of female adolescents with later onset. Where will they be in five or 10 years? We don't know yet.

Most actually don't make medical transitions at this point, but if they were to, would we see a rise in regret? I'd be curious.

How do you recommend we pray for people who are experiencing gender dysphoria?

Mark Yarhouse: We pray for God to continue, if He's already been speaking to them, to continue to speak to them; to speak to me, to guide me, to help me know best how to see the person, to love this person, that they would know that they are loved by God. For me and them to have wisdom and discernment moving forward. For wisdom and discernment on how I relate to them as someone that God cares deeply about.

Those are the types of prayers that I pray. I also provide ministry outside of my role as a psychologist. That's been helpful to me in walking with people. I mentioned that most people don't make a medical transition at this point. I think in the last transgender survey, about 44% of something like 26,000 transgender persons had indicated that they were using hormone treatment and only about 25% had used any type of gender confirmation surgery.

That's been a helpful conversation to have in the back of my mind.

Chaplain Mark Schmidt

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2021
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2021, 10:39:48 pm »
These are tough times for all of the people inside and outside of Christianity in dealing with the various sexual identities that are being brought to the forefront of discussions.   I try to deal with the person and what's in their heart and in the spirit of their soul in my Chapliancey.    It is hard sometimes to put my personal beliefs aside and do what I know is right for the person.  While I struggle with some of the parents I have met and how they act towards their child, I am more concerned about the spiritual and emotional well-being. 

All that said, this was a good read and well written and I think addresses a lot of what some of us struggle with.

Thank you for posting PJ
Say each prayer as if it is your very last conversation with God and live each day as your last day to glorify God by your actions and words.”

My rule of spiritual life.  6/22/2021
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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2021
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2021, 01:59:23 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/may-web-only/bible-reading-study-trauma-ptsd-covid19-mental-health.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29








Study: Trauma-Informed Bible Reading Reduces Depression, Anxiety, Anger




Research in Virginia jail could help churches deal with emotional impact of the pandemic.


One day soon the pandemic may be past, and COVID-19, a memory. But the trauma—from the isolation, seeing people die, facing financial stress, and living with loss and the anxiety of the unknown—will continue for a long time to come.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of American adults with recent symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders increased more than 5 points between the summer of 2020 and the spring of 2021. One out of every 10 people reports having an unmet mental health care need.

“We’re going to see this level of trauma for many years," said Nicole Martin, executive director of trauma healing at the American Bible Society (ABS). “It’s not just going to go away when everyone is vaccinated and everyone is allowed inside.”

Martin and the American Bible Society want to meet that need with trauma-informed Bible reading, teaching people about healing from trauma using Scripture.

A recent ABS-commissioned study by Baylor University researchers found that combining education about mental health best practices with Bible reading can have a significant benefit. In their study, this reduced the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and increased forgiveness, compassion, and sense of purpose.

“As America experiences a mental health crisis, this study shows the potential benefits of faith-sensitive care for traumatized people,” said Robert L. Briggs, ABS president and CEO. “The Bible has been shown to be a vital source for emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental healing.”

The study looked at the effectiveness of the ABS curriculum Healing the Wounds of Trauma, taught inside Riverside Regional Jail in North Prince George, Virginia.

A group of 210 incarcerated men and women volunteered to take the five-session program, where trained facilitators read Scripture with participants and walk them through a process of identifying their pain, sharing it, and bringing their trauma to the cross of Christ for healing, so they can be freed to care for themselves and serve others. The participants answered questions about themselves and their mental health before, immediately after, one month after, and three months after finishing the program. Another group of 139 incarcerated people volunteered to take the survey without going through the program.

Comparing the two groups, researchers found that the program showed statistically significant results.

“Whenever someone says that a particular program is remarkably effective based on the success rate of participants, they don’t have an answer to the question, ‘Compared to what?’” said Byron R. Johnson, one of the three researchers at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion who worked on the study. “Having a control group that is comparable to the experimental group allows us to determine if the intervention is having an independent or unique effect.”

The study groups were broken up into 22 cohorts, 10 male and 12 female. Participants were about half white and half Black, and ranged in age from 18 to 65. Most were in the Virginia jail for a parole or probation violation, and they had been to jail, on average, five or six times. The control group was fairly similar, though they were less likely to be Christian, be married, or have committed a violent offense.

The study showed that the group that went through the program saw a drop in feelings of depression, anxiety, and anger, along with “complicated grief,” which includes denial of traumatic events, negative affect, and avoiding activities associated with trauma. They also had less depression and fewer suicidal thoughts.

At the same time, compared to the control group, the people in the study experienced an increase in feelings of forgiveness and compassion, and reported increased rates of resiliency.

Johnson said he and his fellow Baylor researchers, Sung Joon Jang and Matt Bradshaw, expected to see some differences. But they didn’t anticipate how clear it would be, even immediately after the program finished.

“We saw a reduction in PTSD symptoms, an increase in emotional well-being, and an improvement in attitudes toward God and the Bible,” he said.

The impact may not be as clear in the general population as it is for incarcerated people, according to Johnson. People in jail have typically experienced more trauma in their lives, and there are demographic differences and different contexts that make extrapolation from the study uncertain. But Johnson said the curriculum wasn’t designed specifically for prisons, and he would expect to see trauma-informed Bible reading have similar impacts on everyone.

Heath Lambert, the author of numerous books on biblical counseling, said this makes sense if you realize how much the Bible speaks to trauma, isolation, alienation, and crisis.

“That’s just what the Bible was written to address," said Lambert, an associate professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Kentucky, and senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida. “The Bible explodes with relevance.”

Lambert has seen firsthand some of the traumatic impact the pandemic has had on people. Some in his church have lost loved ones. Many are dealing with unbearable loneliness—separated from their church and their families.

“That is isolating and hard and wounding,” he said. “I’ve talked to these people on the phone, and they’re in tears.”

Church can be a practical solution to loneliness and isolation, according to Lambert. But with the Bible, Christian ministers can also help people meet a sovereign God who is in control and loves them personally.

“The church addresses the fear problem by talking about a big God who holds the world,” he said.

While it’s still hard to say anything definitively at this point, Lambert said he expects that there will be an increase in the number of people who come to church after the pandemic, because they’re searching for answers and community.

ABS wants to help churches be prepared, with Bible-based material that helps people work through trauma.

“It changes the way you think,” Martin said. “It changes how you think about pain. It changes how you think about suffering.”

And though the immediate suffering of the pandemic may soon be over, the need to address trauma didn’t start with COVID-19 and will continue long after.

“All of us have wounds. All of us have pain,” Martin said. “The invitation to meet the ‘Wounded Healer’ through the Bible has the power to change lives.”



 

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